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ACMA eyes 5G, IoT, dynamic spectrum sharing as 2017 issues

The ACMA's new management plan will see it focus on incoming network technologies and the spectrum issues behind them, including mmW bands for 5G and spectrum sharing for IoT.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released its five-year spectrum outlook (FYSO) and 12-month work plan, with the federal government agency focusing on arrangements to support 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), and dynamic spectrum access (DSA).

The Five-year spectrum outlook 2016-20: The ACMA's spectrum management work program [PDF] details the influx of "transformative" technologies needing to be dealt with out to 2020.

For 5G, the ACMA is considering the use of millimetre wave (mmW) bands.

"Enabling the next phase of mobile network development is likely to require the ACMA's attention in a number of areas," the FYSO said.

"From a spectrum perspective, 5G appears certain to use (though not exclusively) large contiguous bandwidths (hundreds of MHz or more) in millimetre wave bands."

The ACMA is monitoring both high-frequency and low-frequency mmW bands, including the 2.3GHz, 2.5GHz, 3.5GHz, and 3.6GHz bands, for 5G mobile services.

"The 2.3GHz, 2.5GHz and 3.5GHz bands are already available for use for mobile broadband services in Australia and could feasibly be used for early deployment of 5G or pre-standard 5G in Australia," the ACMA added.

"The 3.6GHz band is included in the initial investigation stage of ACMA's mobile broadband work program."

The ACMA is planning to publish a discussion paper on planning issues for the 1.5GHz and 3.6GHz spectrum bands over the next few weeks, with the latter band being eyed for 5G purposes worldwide.

For IoT concerns, the ACMA is looking at a broad range of spectrum bands due to the large number of varied uses and users involved.

"Given the huge diversity of uses of IoT, there is no simple solution to providing spectrum for all of the applications which are likely to require access to it under a range of protocols from dedicated spectrum to commons spectrum, and options in between," ACMA acting chairman Richard Bean said at the CommsDay Congress in Melbourne this week.

"We are and have taken steps to make new spectrum available to support a range of low-power applications including M2M [machine-to-machine] applications in 900MHz band as part of the implementation of our review of the 803-960 band. Permanent arrangements in this band are not currently set to be in place until 2021, but we will consider early access applications."

The ACMA is also examining IoT opportunities in the very high frequency (VHF) band.

The ACMA had previously argued in favour of a default spectrum band for all IoT devices across the globe, or, alternatively, sensors that can identify which country a device is operating in.

The government agency in December released a set of proposed changes to spectrum regulations aimed at providing easier access for M2M operators utilising spectrum for IoT, and outgoing ACMA chairman Chris Chapman in February emphasised the need for IoT spectrum.

(Image: ACMA)

In regards to DSA, the ACMA recognised spectrum sharing as being "fundamental" for efficient spectrum management. DSA relies on users and uses to co-exist on the same spectrum band, with awareness of the environment required.

The ACMA said there are currently three ways for devices to become more aware of their surroundings to enable dynamic sharing of a spectrum band.

"At this stage, three major techniques to enhance a device's awareness of its surroundings have been identified: Geolocation with database look-up; sensing; and beacon transmissions," the FYSO says.

"These techniques can be used to make use of spectrum 'white space', where secondary users take advantage of intermittent, occasional or itinerant use by primary users."

The ACMA in July said spectrum sharing is the key to IoT and 5G, with ACMA Spectrum Planning Branch executive manager Christopher Hose saying that there needs to be more cooperation between industry and the ACMA to achieve this goal.

The agency said it recently implemented DSA across the 3400MHz-3600MHz spectrum band between Defence radar systems and terrestrial wireless broadband.

Lastly, the ACMA's new 12-month work plan will see the agency focus on 10 projects across three "themes". The first theme will see the ACMA implement its mobile broadband strategy by Q4 2016; work on priority compliance areas including interference management, customer cabling compliance, and transmitter licensing compliance across the 400MHz and by June 2017; set spectrum pricing initiatives by Q1 2017; look into spectrum allocations in the 700MHz, 850MHz, 1800MHz, 1.5GHz, 2GHz, 2.3GHz, 3.4GHz, and 3.6GHz bands; implement the regional digital radio rollout plan, with scoping to be completed by Q4 2016 and implementation from Q1 2017; and convert AM to FM commercial radio broadcasting services in selected regional licence areas between Q4 2016 and Q1 2017.

The second theme will see the ACMA develop its customer self-service program, with device registration and 900MHz station registration online forms made available in Q3 2016; XML payload form for APs to be made available in Q4 2016; and apparatus licence application forms to be available in Q1 2017.

The final theme will involve implementation of the government's spectrum review in accordance with the Department of Communications' timeline; implementation of the 400MHz spectrum band review, with the second milestone due between December 2016 and June 2017 and the third milestone in December 2017; and updating the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan in January 2017.

The ACMA is inviting comment on 5G mmW bands, IoT spectrum, DSA, and its approach to the new 12-month work plan in response to the FYSO.

Earlier on Friday, the Department of Communications announced that the ACMA would also be auctioning off 2x 15MHz of the 700MHz spectrum band that went unsold during the 2013 digital dividend auction, following Vodafone Australia's proposal to buy the spectrum outright.

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